Patriots defensive end Michael Bennett has seen his role reduced in the last several weeks, and his frustrations apparently boiled over last Friday.
Bennett was not seen at Tuesday’s practice, and he reportedly has been suspended for the week by the Patriots for conduct detrimental to the team. Bennett will miss the week of practice and Monday night’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium, which will cost him $270,220 in salary and roster bonus.
Bennett provided a statement to ESPN explaining that he had a disagreement with Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema a day after playing just 11 snaps in a win over the Giants.
“On Friday, I had a philosophical disagreement with my position coach that has led to my suspension,” Bennett said. “I apologize to my teammates for any distraction this may have caused.”
While the Patriots defense is dominating opponents and leading the NFL in several statistical categories, Bennett has struggled to fit in. He was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia in March to replace Trey Flowers, but the Patriots are using the 11-year veteran in a role he has never played before. He is used to attacking offensive linemen at wide angles, not tying up blockers head-on.
Last Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke highly of Bennett, saying, “He’s really tried hard and worked hard to embrace what we’ve asked him to do — which again, is quite different than what he’s done in Seattle and Philly, even in Tampa.”
Bennett has 2½ sacks through six games but only five tackles, and his playing time has decreased steadily since Week 1. He has played just 25 snaps in the last two games, and he is fifth in playing time among the team’s defensive linemen (35.6 percent). The Patriots have become a 3-4 base defense, and Adam Butler, Danny Shelton, and Lawrence Guy have been the most consistent performers up front.
Bennett had been an every-down player the last six seasons with the Seahawks and Eagles.
“The toughest thing is getting to try to fit in and get to know everybody,” Bennett told the Globe last week. “That’s the hardest thing — figure out how your teammates play.”
The Patriots gave Bennett a two-year contract in April after acquiring him. The deal included a $4 million signing bonus, $3 million base salary this year, $1.5 million in per-game bonuses this year, and $9 million nonguaranteed for 2020.
Trading Bennett would save the Patriots about $3 million in cash and salary cap. Releasing Bennett would only clear about $1 million in cash and cap, since his base salary became fully guaranteed in Week 1.